Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

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Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side Page 1

by Beth Fantaskey

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Table of Contents




  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  Chapter 61

  Chapter 62

  Chapter 63

  Chapter 64

  Chapter 65



  Buy the Book

  About the Author

  Copyright © 2009 by Beth Fantaskey

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.

  Harcourt Children’s Books is an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

  The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows:

  Fantaskey, Beth.

  Jessica’s guide to dating on the dark side/Beth Fantaskey.

  p. cm.

  Summary: Seventeen-year-old Jessica, adopted and raised in Pennsylvania, learns that she is descended from a royal line of Romanian vampires and that she is betrothed to a vampire prince, who poses as a foreign exchange student while courting her.

  [1. Vampires—Fiction. 2. Dating (Social customs)—Fiction. 3. High schools—Fiction. 4. Schools—Fiction. 5. Arranged marriage—Fiction. 6. Identity—Fiction. 7. Kings, queens, rulers, etc.—Fiction. 8. Pennsylvania—Fiction. 9. Romania—Fiction.] I. Title.

  PZ7.F222285Jes 2009

  [Fic]—dc22 2007049002

  ISBN 978-0-15-206384-9

  eISBN 978-0-547-48782-3


  For my parents,

  Donald and Marjorie Fantaskey

  “Just remember, girls: The young male vampire is

  a predator by nature. Some boys may look at you

  not only as a romantic interest, but as prey . . .”

  Chapter 1, “On the Verge of Adult Vampiredom,”

  in Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s

  Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions

  Chapter 1

  THE FIRST TIME I saw him, a heavy, gray fog clung to the cornfields, tails of mist slithering between the dying stalks. It was a dreary early morning right after Labor Day, and I was waiting for the school bus, just minding my own business, standing at the end of the dirt lane that connected my family’s farmhouse to the main road into town.

  I was thinking about how many times I’d probably waited for that bus over the course of a dozen years, killing time like any mathlete would, by doing calculations in my head, when I noticed him.

  And suddenly that familiar stretch of blacktop seemed awfully desolate.

  He was standing under a massive beech tree across the road from me, his arms crossed over his chest. The tree’s low, gnarled branches twisted down around him, nearly concealing him in limbs and leaves and shadows. But it was obvious that he was tall and wearing a long, dark coat, almost like a cloak.

  My chest clenched, and I swallowed hard. Who stands under a tree at the crack of dawn, in the middle of nowhere, wearing a black cloak?

  He must have realized I’d spotted him, because he shifted a little, like he was deciding whether to leave. Or maybe cross the road.

  It had never struck me how vulnerable I’d been all those mornings I’d waited out there alone, but the realization hit me hard then.

  I glanced down the road, heart thudding. Where is the stupid bus? And why did my dad have to be so big on mass transit, anyhow? Why couldn’t I own a car, like practically every other senior? But no, I had to “share the ride” to save the environment. When I’m abducted by the menacing guy under the tree, Dad will probably insist my face only appear on recycled milk cartons. . . .

  In the precious split second I wasted being angry at my father, the stranger really did move in my direction, stepping out from under the tree, and I could have sworn—just as the bus, thank god, crested the rise about fifty yards down the road—I could have sworn I heard him say, “Antanasia.”

  My old name . . . The name I’d been given at birth, in Eastern Europe, before I’d been adopted and brought to America, rechristened Jessica Packwood. . . .

  Or maybe I was hearing things, because the word was drowned out by the sound of tires hissing on wet pavement, grinding gears, and the whoosh of the doors as the driver, old Mr. Dilly, swung them open for me. Wonderful, wonderful bus number 23. I’d never been so happy to climb on board.

  With his usual grunted “Mornin’, Jess,” Mr. Dilly put the bus in gear, and I stumbled down the aisle, searching for an empty seat or a friendly face among the half-groggy riders. It sucked sometimes, living in rural Pennsylvania. The town kids were probably still sleeping, safe and sound in their beds.

  Locating a spot at the very back of the bus, I plopped down with a rush of relief. Maybe I’d overreacted. Maybe my imagination had run wild, or too many episodes of America’s Most Wanted had messed with my head. Or maybe the stranger really had meant me harm. . . . Twisting around, I peered out the rear window, and my heart sank.

  He was still there, but in the road now, booted feet planted on either side of the double yellow line, arms still crossed, watching the bus drive away. Watching me.

  “Antanasia . . .”

  Had I really heard him call me by that long-forgotten name?

  And if he knew that obscure fact, what else did the dark stranger, receding in the mist, know about my past?

  More to the point, what did he want with me in the present?

  Chapter 2

  “SO THAT PRETTY MUCH sums up my summer at camp.” My best friend Melinda Sue Stankowicz sighed, pulling open the heavy glass door to Woodrow Wilson High School. “Homesick kids, sunburn, poison ivy, and big spiders in the showers.

  “Sounds like being a counselor was awful.” I sympathized as we entered the familiar hallway, which smelled of cleanser and fresh floor wax. “If it helps, I gained at least five pounds waitressing at the diner. I just kept eating pie every time I got a break.”

  “You look great.” Mindy waved off my complaint. “Although I’m not sure about your hair . . .”

  “Hey!” I protested, smoothing down my unruly curls, which did seem to be rebelling in the late-summer humidity. “I’ll have you know I spent an hour with a hair dryer and this ‘straightening balm’ that cost me a week’s tips . . .” I trailed off, realizing that Mindy was distracted, not listening to me. I followed her gaze down the hall and toward the lockers.

  “And speaking of looking great,” she said.

  Jake Zinn, who lived on a farm near my family’s place, was struggling with his new locker combination. Frowning at a scrap of paper in his hand, he spun the lock and rattled the handle. An obviously brand-new white T-shirt made his summer tan look especially deep. The sleeves hugged tight around bulging biceps.

  “Jake looks amazing,” Mindy whispered as we approached my neighbor. “He must have joined a gym or something. And did he get highlights?”

  “He lugged hay bales all summer in the sun, Min,” I whispered back. “He doesn’t need a gym—or bleach in his hair.”

  Jake glanced up as we walked past, and smiled when he saw me. “Hey, Jess.”

  “Hey,” I replied. Then my mind went blank.

  Mindy chimed in, preventing an awkward silence. “Looks like they gave you the wrong combination,” she noted, nodding at Jake’s still-closed locker. “Did you try kicking it?”

  Jake ignored the suggestion. “You didn’t work last night, huh, Jess?”

  “No, I’m done at the diner,” I said. “It was just a summer job.”

  Jake looked a little disappointed. “Oh. Well, I guess I’ll have to catch up with you around school, then.”

  “Yeah. I’m sure we’ll have some classes together,” I said, feeling my cheeks get warm. “See ya.” I sort of dragged Mindy along with me down the hall.

  “What was that all about?” she demanded when we were out of earshot. She glanced over her shoulder at Jake.

  My face grew warmer. “What was what all about?”

  “Jake looking all sad that you quit the diner. You turning bright red—”

  “It’s nothing,” I advised her. “He came in a few times near the end of my shift and gave me a ride home. We hung out a little . . . And I am not red.”

  “Really?” Mindy’s smile was smug. “You and Jake, huh?”

  “It was no big deal,” I insisted.

  The gleam in Mindy’s eyes told me she knew I wasn’t being completely honest. “This is going to be a very interesting year,” she predicted.

  “And speaking of interesting . . .” I started to tell my best friend about the scary stranger at the bus stop. But the moment I thought of him, the hair on the back of my neck prickled, almost like I was being watched.

  “Antanasia . . .”

  The low, deep voice echoed in my brain, like a half-remembered nightmare.

  I rubbed the back of my neck. Maybe I would tell Mindy the story later. Or maybe the whole thing would just blow over and I’d never even think about the guy again.

  That was probably what would happen.

  Yet the prickly sensation didn’t go away.

  Chapter 3

  “THIS IS GOING to be such an exciting class,” Mrs. Wilhelm promised, bubbling over with enthusiasm as she handed out the reading list for Senior English Literature: Shakespeare to Stoker. “You are all going to love the classics I’ve selected. Prepare yourselves for a year of epic quests, heart-stopping romances, and the clashes of great armies. All without ever leaving Woodrow Wilson High School.”

  Apparently not everybody was as ecstatic about clashing armies and thumping hearts as Mrs. Wilhelm, because I heard a lot of groans as the reading list circulated through the class. I accepted my copy from my longtime tormentor Frank Dormand, who’d plopped into the seat in front of me like a massive, gooey spitball, and did a quick survey. Oh, no. Not Ivanhoe. And Moby Dick . . . who had time for Moby Dick? This was supposed to be the year I had a social life. Not to mention Dracula . . . please. If there was one thing I hated, it was spooky fairy tales with no basis in reality or logic. That was my parents’ territory, and I had no interest in going there.

  Stealing a quick look across the aisle at Mindy, I saw panic and misery in her eyes, too, as she whispered, “What does ‘wuthering’ mean?”

  “No idea,” I whispered back. “We’ll look it up.”

  “I also want you to pass around this seating chart,” Mrs. Wilhelm continued, squishing around on her sensible shoes. “The desk you’ve selected will be your assigned seat for the year. I see some new faces out there, and I want to get to know you all as quickly as possible, so do not move.”

  I slouched in my seat. Great. I was destined for a whole year of Frank Dormand’s moronic, but mean, comments, which I was certain he’d spew every time he turned to hand something back down the aisle. And legendarily bitchy cheerleader Faith Crosse had claimed the seat directly behind me. I was sandwiched between two of the school’s nastiest people. At least Mindy was across from me. And—I looked back to my left—Jake had found a desk near mine. He grinned when I met his eyes. It could have been worse, I guess. But not much.

  Frank slid around in his chair to toss the seating chart at me. “Here you go, Packrat,” he sneered, using the name he’d bestowed on me in kindergarten. “Put that on the chart.” Yup. Moronic and mean, just like I’d predicted. And only 180 school days to go.

  “At least I can spell my name,” I hissed at him. Jerk.

  Dormand squirmed back around, scowling, and I dug into my backpack for my pen. When I went to write my name, though, my ballpoint was bone dry, probably because it had lingered uncapped in my pack all summer. I gave the pen a shake and tried again. Nothing.

  I started to turn to my left, thinking maybe Jake could loan me one of his pens. Before I could ask him, though, I felt a tap on my right shoulder. Not now . . . Not now . . . I considered ignoring it, but the tapper struck me lightly again.

  “Excuse me, but are you in need of a writing instrument?”

  The deep voice with the unusual Euro accent came from close behind me. I had no choice but to turn around.


  It was him. The guy from the bus stop. I would have recognized the strange outfit—the long coat, the boots—not to mention his imposing height anywhere. Only this time, he was just a few feet away. Close enough for me to see his eyes. They were so dark as to appear black and were boring into me with a cool, somehow unnerving, intelligence. I swallowed thickly, frozen in my seat.

  Had he been in class all along? And if so, how could I have failed to notice him?

  Maybe because he was sitting sort of apart from the rest of us. Or maybe it was because the very air in his particular corner seemed murky, the fluorescent light directly above his desk snuffed out. But it was more than that. It was almost like he created the darkness. That’s ridiculous, Jess. . . . He’s a person, not a black hole. . . .

  “You require a writing instrument, yes?” he repeated, stretching his arm up the aisle—a long, muscular arm—to offer me a shiny gold pen. Not the plastic Bics that most people used. A real gold pen. You could tell just by the way it glittered that it was expensive. When I hesitated, a look of annoyance crossed his aristocratic face, and he shook the pen at me. “You do recognize a pen, right? This is a familiar tool, yes?”

  I didn’t appreciate the sarcasm, or the way he’d crept up on me twice in one day, and I kept staring, stupidly, until Faith Crosse reached forward and pinched my arm. Hard. “Just sign the chart, Jenn, all right?”

  “Hey!” I rubbed what would be a bruise, wishing I had the nerve to tell Faith off, both for pinching me and calling me by the wrong name. But the last perso
n who’d tangled with Faith Crosse had ended up transferring to Saint Monica’s, the local Catholic school. Faith had made her life at Woodrow Wilson that miserable.

  “Hurry it up, Jenn,” Faith snapped again.

  “Okay, okay.” Reluctantly reaching out to the stranger, I accepted the heavy pen from his hand, and as our fingers touched, I felt the most bizarre sensation ever. Like déjà vu crashing into a premonition. The past colliding with the future.

  He smiled then, revealing the most perfect set of even, white teeth I’d ever seen. They actually gleamed, like well-tended weaponry. Above him, the fluorescent light sizzled to life for a second, flickering like lightning.

  Okay, that was weird.

  I slid back around, and my hand shook a little as I wrote my name on the seating chart. It was stupid to be freaked out. He was just another student. Obviously a new guy. Maybe he lived somewhere near our farm. He’d probably been waiting for the bus, just like me, and missed getting on somehow. His somewhat mysterious appearance in English class—a few feet from me—probably wasn’t cause for alarm, either.

  I looked to Mindy for her opinion. She’d obviously been waiting to make contact. Eyes wide, she jabbed her thumb in the guy’s direction, mouthing a very exaggerated, “He’s so hot!”

  Hot? “You’re crazy,” I whispered. Yes, the guy was technically good-looking. But he was also totally terrifying with his cloak and boots and ability to materialize near me seemingly out of nowhere.

  “The chart already,” Faith growled behind me.

  “Here.” I passed the seating chart over my shoulder, getting a deep, razor-thin cut as impatient Faith snatched the paper from my hand. “Ouch!”

  I shook the stinging, bleeding finger, then jabbed it into my mouth, tasting salt on my tongue, before I twisted back around to return the pen. The faster, the better . . . “Here. Thanks.”

  The guy who generated his own gloom stared at my fingers, and I realized that I was dripping blood on his expensive pen. “Um, sorry,” I said, wiping the pen on my leg, for lack of a tissue. Ugh. And will that stain come out of my jeans?


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